Style Icon: Marilyn Monroe

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To commemorate what would been her 90th birthday, we've taken a trip down memory lane to look at the life and style of the much loved actress Marilyn Monroe.

Words by Olivia Girling

From her humble beginnings in minor film roles, to Golden Globe nominations, Monroe managed to solidify her position as one of the most well-known Hollywood actresses of all time. Although she was only a top-billed actress for just over 10 years, her iconic red lip, beauty mark, and platinum blonde hair is likely to never be forgotten. From a troubled childhood to a widely celebrated career, delve a little deeper into the icon's life. Maybe you'll learn something new today!

Early Life

Although we all know her as Marilyn Monroe, she was actually born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1st 1926 to her single mother, Gladys Monroe. Due to her financial and mental incapability, Monroe's mother placed her in the care of fosters parents in California very soon after the birth.

Having experienced a very troubled childhood in terms of sexual abuse and constantly being moved from place to place, Monroe began to use film as a way to distract herself from a very young age; "When I was five I think, that's when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play. I didn't like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house. It was like you could make your own boundaries... When I heard that this was acting, I said that's what I want to be."

Always craving to be in front of a camera, Monroe befriended a photographer in 1944 which kick-started her successful pin-up modelling career which ultimately lead to two (very short-lived contracts), one with Twentieth Century Fox from 1946-47, and the other with Columbia Pictures which only lasted for the year of 1948.

Hollywood Years

As Young As You Feel (1951)

Following a series of minor film roles in the following years, Monroe finally signed a contract with Fox in 1951 which ultimately became the turning point in her career and boosted her into the public eye.

Beginning with a small role in as curvaceous private secretary in As Young As You Feel (1951), Monroe was portrayed as the young, glamourous assistant with whom the 'big boss' attempts to begin an affair. With tight black dresses and plunging necklines, along with her child like voice and fluttering lashes, Monroe began to be typecast as the sexy 'dumb' blonde; something that continued throughout her entire film career.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

In terms of fashion, it's relatively safe to say that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) featured Marilyn's most diverse wardrobe. Beginning in a floor length red sequinned dress with a plunging neckline and thigh high slit, Monroe performs Two Little Girls from Little Rock with fellow actress Jane Russell, then we see the dazzling orange gown with a bejewelled neckline and a lot of cleavage, and finally, there is the iconic shocking pink satin dress and matching gloves which she wears during the Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend sequence.

Monroe portrays showgirl and gold-digger Lorelei Lee, a character which made her one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, whilst also establishing her image as the "dumb blonde".

The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Twentieth Century Fox wanted to make Monroe a star pf the 50s as a way of drawing men to movie theatres, and this could not have been more apparent than during the filming of The Seven Year Itch (1955). The film features what is known as Monroe's most famous scene of all time - the moment in which she is wearing a gorgeous flowing white dress whilst standing above a subway grate, causing the dress to blow up and flash a lot of thigh!

The studio decided to generate a lot of hype around the film before its release, so this iconic scene was filmed on location on Lexington Avenue in New York, which attracted masses of photographers who are to thank for the equally iconic white halter neck dress photograph that we have all come to associate with Monroe.

T7YI featured the 29 year old actress, yet again, portraying a model and actress with whom the main protagonist dreams of having an affair. It became one of Monroe's best known roles, grossing $4.5 million at the box office.

The Monroe Legacy

Monroe tragically passed away at the very young age of 36 due to an overdose of barbiturates and it has been speculated whether it was a suicide or not. However, she has left behind a true legacy in her wake; Monroe was the true blonde bombshell of the 1950s and she knew it. Although it is safe to say that she was incredibly type cast throughout her film career, she was a much loved actress and singer who is still adored by thousands today.

Create your own casual Monroe outfit by pairing ¾ length crisp white trousers with a crisp shirt and sandals, or if 'go big or go home' is more your style, grab that shocking pink dress; buy that white halter neck dress you've had your eye on. Throw your head back, stand on a subway grate and live your dream!!!